Critical Mass Top 50, 2011

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Nigel Gordon Dickinson

Youth recycling worker with lamp, before sunrise, Smokey Mountain

Recycling workers at night, Smokey Mountain

Recycling workers surround garbage truck, Smokey Mountain

Youth sleeping amidst plastic he has collected, Smokey Mountain

Recycling workers, early morning, Smokey Mountain

Recycling workers on top of Smokey Mountain

Eight year old Sitay, sole earner for her family, Smokey Mountain

Youth washing plastic bags, at edge of Smokey Mountain

Girl recycling worker buys fastfood, at edge of Smokey Mountain

The nightshift begins, Smokey Mountain, Cambodia
Nigel Gordon Dickinson

Smokey Mountain, Cambodia Smokey Mountain rubbish dump, a potent symbol of developing world inequity and a perilous home and lifestyle for over two thousand impoverished scavengers, became the casual work place and source of income for many poor peasants and city dwellers; men, women and children who sift through a quagmire of discarded metal, plastic and paper, recycling the city's waste, to scrape a living of about $1-2 a day. They collect plastic bags, plastic, metals & paper, which are sorted, cleaned, weighed and sold, then sent away for recycling. People do almost everything here; they work, eat and sleep, amidst the rubbish and fumes. Recycling workers even work night-shifts, using miners lamps to illuminate their way, one of the dump's most visually striking and unique characteristics. In a country gripped by poverty and corruption, where the sex industry is rife and thousands beg on the streets, many have no choice but to work on Phnom Penh's municipal rubbish dump, a landfill site established in the 1960s, which became known as Smokey Mountain. The acrid grey smokey fumes coming from burning garbage, gave the place its name. The dump is notorious for pollution, crime, disease and that several hundred minors, amongst them some very young children, worked there, processing 700 tons of garbage every day. In Asia, whole communities have developed out of the waste industry, handling some 75% of urban waste. What is a life of misery for some, is an example of sustainable development to others. Across Asia, the figures for recycling man-made resources, by such communities, are staggeringly high compared with the western developed countries. Informal waste collection systems have environmental and economic advantages, reducing the need for landfill, saving natural resources, while providing an important lifeline for some of the world’s poorest people, but waste scavengers have dramatically shortened life expectancies, poor health and bad living conditions